Megan Collins is always thinking of ways to encourage her three daughters’ creativity — even when decorating the interiors of her Minneapolis home.

She mixes chalkboard-paint closet doors, where her girls are encouraged to express themselves, with a shabby chic romantic mirror in the entryway. Decorative woven baskets store dolls and stuffed animals so they’re easily accessible for imaginative play.

The girls’ artwork and paintings by Minneapolis College of Art and Design students cover the walls. A copy of “Peter Pan and Wendy” tops a pile of decorating books.

And Collins made sure to buy a durable dining room table, because it often doubles as a craft station.

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“I like spaces that are beautiful and stylish — but kid elements are also part of the visual experience,” she says. “A stack of children’s books is an accessory as much as a beautiful silver tray. That’s how we live.”

Megan and her husband, Casey, lucked into their 1907 farmhouse-style home five years ago. Although the antique-filled interiors were far from her style — with dark-stained woodwork, green wallpaper, lace curtains and brass light fixtures — she knew the four-bedroom home had immense potential.

“I could visualize light, bright rooms,” she says.

The couple were on a budget and couldn’t undertake a major renovation. But before they moved in, they had workers paint all the woodwork and walls shades of white, and install recessed lights in the ceilings of the living and music rooms.

With a fresh backdrop, Megan gradually layered all the pieces that shape her “vintage modern” style, which has evolved since she had her first home — an apartment in New York City.

“I like the two juxtaposed together and how the vintage softens the sharper modern edges,” says Collins, who works as a freelance writer and editor under her maiden name, Megan Kaplan, for Real Simple and HGTV magazine, which recently showcased her home.

While growing up, she learned how to be a thrifty shopper from her mother, Mary Kaplan. “I’m a high-low kind of girl. I spend money on statement pieces and try to fix and patch in what I don’t like in a cost-effective way.”

Collins believes she has inherited her mother’s design sensibility, including the edict that no room should be off-limits to kids.

“I learned from her how to create a delightful environment that excites me and my children,” she says. “The interplay of big kids and little kids is what makes design fun.”

Here are some of Collins’ design tips and tricks.

Living room

• Two wood cubes painted charcoal make a more versatile coffee table. “They can be pushed together for serving drinks and food,” she says

• Artwork is displayed at kid height

• She bought two chairs for $50 and had them reupholstered with white linen and a colorful dragon-patterned fabric remnant

Music room

• A modern navy sectional shares the space with a vintage Steinway piano. “You need to ground a white palette with deeper colors like navy and charcoal,” she says

Dining room

• She pulls out craft supplies stored in the buffet for kids’ arts activities at the table

• Two cut tropical Monstera plant leaves, placed in a vase, make a simple centerpiece

• She pairs modern ivory Donghia chairs, softened with Ikea pads, with the vintage-look table


• Collins found “cheap” bamboo blinds from and had them cut to fit at a hardware store. A friend sewed a valance from an old tablecloth

• A neighbor who builds furniture crafted the table from reclaimed barn wood

Porch TV / playroom

• Collins turned a wall above the sofa into a kids’ art gallery by covering it with magnetic paint and a cream-hued top coat.